Here’s Undeniable, Irrefutable Proof That Owls Are The Best. Courtesy Of Their Biggest Fan.
Redditor RAVENous410 loves owls, like really, REALLY loves owls. But who can blame her, they are adorable.
She works as an owl researcher and yes, I know what you’re thinking… “Owl research? really?” But she gets to record awesome things like this:
“[6:52pm – Owl still adorable]”
Sounds like a great job, but let’s let her excitement take it from here. Read on.
Here are some common questions about my work on owls:
Q: Is that a baby owl?
A: No! It’s a Northern Saw-whet Owl. They breed in Canada and often winter in the US, ranging widely. They eat a lot of red-backed voles, and never grow much larger than a potato. They’re good to research because there are a lot of them, they migrate fairly dependably, and they don’t try to rip your fingers off. Many other owls (including even smaller varieties!) will try very hard to do this. Saw-whets can certainly hurt (especially if they hook a talon into your cuticle, that’s the worst), but it’s nothing too serious.
Q: How do you catch them?
A: We put a speaker system out in a low pine woodland, surrounded by 4 mist nets in a square formation (see below for info on mist nets). We play a loud territorial Saw-whet call, and birds migrating nearby hear the call, come to investigate, and get trapped in the nets.
Q: Mist nets?
A: Yes! They’re nets that are about 12 ft tall and 20 ft long (they can vary depending on the net size you want, as well as how stretched out they get over time). They have four panels that each run the length of the net, with “bags” at the bottom to catch the birds. They’re very fine and hard to see, hence “Mist”.
Q: But doesn’t that hurt the owl?
A: Incredibly rarely. The birds hit the vertical part of the net, and fall into the loose “bag”, getting tangled. Due to the clever structure of the net, the bird usually is resting most of its weight on its belly or back, thus putting little stress on the wings and legs (however, owls are pretty hearty as it is. I feel that there’s more to be concerned about with songbirds, which are much more fragile). This year we had a single bird that caught its wing funny, and so my supervisor kept the bird overnight and fed him up a bit (Note: HE IS PERMITTED TO DO THIS by both the state and federal Gov’t). The bird flew off fine the next day.
Q: What do you do with them?
A: We weigh and measure them, age them, band them, and sometimes take blood or feather samples for DNA-related stuff. The band is so that, if/when the bird is recaptured somewhere else, there’s info on where else the bird has been, and its condition at that location. Pretty dang useful. After that, we let them go! We usually have a given bird for about a half an hour.
Q: Why are there pictures of the owl in a can? That seems cruel!
A: For the benefit of the owl and for us. If its head is in the can, it can’t bite or claw at us very effectively, making our work much faster and more efficient. We try to keep the owls for as short a time as possible. Also, it’s dark in the can. The bird can’t see much, and this limitation of stimuli makes the process much less stressful for the bird (AKA it can’t see giant humans doing weird stuff to them). Ever seen a hood on a hawk or falcon? Same deal, except hoods don’t really fit on the owls’ fat heads.
Q: SO CUTE! Can I have one?
A: Naw, sorry. The Migratory Bird Act protects the crap out of birds like these, and almost all other birds as well. You can’t touch them, keep them, or even pick up and save their feathers without a permit (a lot of people don’t even know that)! I was sub-permitted federally, and had my own state permit to do this work. If you ever come across an injured bird, please call a wildlife rehab center.
So what have we learned today kids? Owls are just as awesome as we always thought!